Is There Such a Thing As Healthy Sugar?

In simpler times you had a choice between white sugar and raw sugar and if you used raw sugar you felt fairly virtuous.

Now we have a multitude of options from agave to stevia. So if you want a little sweetness in your life but are also keen to nourish your well-being then have a look at my modern day sugar ‘cheat sheet’.

Keep in mind, even the healthiest and least refined sugars still come with a caveat. The recommended adult dose of sugar is only 25 grammes a day and yet on average, we consume around six times that amount.


The sweet nectar from a cactus native to Mexico sounds pretty natural. However extracting a honey like liquid from a spiky desert plant requires a lot of processing. The end product has exceptionally high levels of fructose – higher even than high fructose corn syrup. Diets high in fructose have been linked to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.  

Health rating ★★

Jaggery/Panela/Rapadura Sugar

The pure unrefined juice of the sugar cane plant dried and sieved into a grainy powder is known by different names depending on the country of origin: jaggery in India, rapadura in Brazil, panela in Colombia. Because of the lack of processing, these sugars retain some essential minerals including: iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorus as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and niacin. A better choice, if used in moderation.

Health rating ★★★★


Stevia is a South American herb that found traditional use as a contraceptive. It is also exceptionally sweet, around 200 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories. If low calorie is important to you it’s a slightly better option than using artificial sweeteners however if you have issues with hormone balance or fertility it’s probably best avoided or at least used with caution.

Health rating ★★

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose are best avoided at all costs in my opinion. Most commonly found in ‘diet’ soft drinks, the appeal is the zero calorie count, however we’d need a whole issue of the Canberra Weekly to list the known side effects of aspartame alone.

Health rating: zero stars

Brown Sugar, Muscavado, Turbinado, Demarara and Raw Sugar

All highly refined and processed sugars, even though raw sugar sounds so wholesome! All these sugars are very highly manufactured, typically requiring multiple chemical processes to separate the molasses form the sugar and then depending on the colour desired further processing to add some molasses back in.

Health rating ★

White sugar/Corn Syrup/Maltodextrin

The most refined and adulterated sugars.

Health rating: half a star